News is that Senator Heidi Heitkamp is joining with Montana Senator Jon Tester to support the Sunlight for Unaccountable Nonprofits (SUN) Act.
This legislation, if passed, would force political nonprofits to disclose any donors who make tax-exempt contributions over the amount of $5,000.
According to Senator Heitkamp, people shouldn’t just get to run around spending their money on their favored political causes willy-nilly because what do you think this is, a free country or something?
Heitkamp said that in 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in the Buckley v. Valeo case that “money is speech, and it’s protected.” She said that Democrats have been trying to get the case overturned for years, and she believes Buckley v. Valeo was “wrongly decided.” That case led to Citizens United, she said.
“The problem with where we are right now … is you don’t know who gave the money,” Heitkamp said. “So it’s a way to launder political money to a (501(c)(4)) and no one can know. At a minimum the voters of our state have a right to know who’s financing campaigns — that’s why we have disclosures, that’s why we have campaign finance reporting.”
Money is speech. If you take away the ability of Americans to amplify their political speech by, as one example, giving money to political groups you shift the power balance in favor of people with preexisting platforms from which to speak.
Case in point, the average gun-toting American cannot hope to speak as loudly as some politician or Hollywood activist on the issue of gun control unless they combine their resources with other like-minded citizens to support something like the National Rifle Association.
I understand why liberals like Heitkamp hate the Citizens United ruling from SCOTUS. It opened the door to right-of-center interests to organize and influence politics on a scale that was previously reserved only for left-leaning groups like labor unions.
Heitkamp and other Democrats aren’t on this mission out of some heartfelt duty toward public accountability. They’ll say this is about transparency, but really it’s about weakening the political competition.
Forcing these disclosures opens up contributors to conservative nonprofit groups to intimidation. Far-left groups have already been going after companies and business interests which support right-of-center causes. This legislation would bolster those efforts.
Besides, why should a private group operating on private, voluntary donations have to make this sort of disclosure? That sort of transparency is for politicians and the government, not the private sector.
“But they’re tax-exempt,” you’ll argue, but that is a separate question. If we don’t like that these groups have a tax exemption, then let’s have a debate about that. Not forcing disclosures which serve no purpose outside of partisan vendettas.